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Vernon God Little (Man Booker Prize) Hardcover – October, 2003

168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

The surprise winner of the 2003 Man Booker Prize, DBC Pierre's debut novel, Vernon God Little, makes few apologies in its darkly comedic portrait of Martirio, Texas, a town reeling in the aftermath of a horrific school shooting. Fifteen-year-old Vernon Little narrates the first-person story with a cynical twang and a four-letter barb for each of his diet-obsessed townsfolk. His mother, endlessly awaiting the delivery of a new refrigerator, seems to exist only to twist an emotional knife in his back; her friend, Palmyra, structures her life around the next meal at the Bar-B-Chew Barn; officer Vaine Gurie has Vernon convicted of the crime before she's begun the investigation; reporter Eulalio Ledesma hovers between a comforting father-figure and a sadistic Bond villain; and Jesus, his best friend in the world, is dead--a victim of the killings. As his life explodes before him, Vernon flees his home in pursuit of a tropical fantasy: a cabin on a beach in Mexico he once saw in the movie Against All Odds. But the police--and TV crews--are in hot pursuit.

Vernon God Little is a daring novel and demands a patient reader, not because it is challenging to read--Pierre's prose flows effortlessly, only occasionally slipping from the unmistakable voice of his hero--but because the book skates so precariously between the almost taboo subject of school violence and the literary gamesmanship of postmodern fiction. Yet, as the novel unfolds, Pierre's parodic version of American culture never crosses the line into caricature, even when it climaxes in a death-row reality TV show. And Vernon, whose cynicism and smart-ass "learnings" give way to a poignant curiosity about the meaning of life, becomes a fully human, profoundly sympathetic character. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly

Pierre takes a freewheeling, irreverent look at teenage Sturm und Drang in his erratic, sometimes darkly comic debut novel about a Texas boy running from the law in the wake of a gory school shooting. Vernon Gregory Little is the 15-year-old protagonist, a nasty, sarcastic teenager accused of being an accessory to the murders committed by his friend Jesus Navarro in tiny Martirio, "the barbecue sauce capital of Texas." Vernon manages to make bail and avoid the media horde that descends on the town after the killings, but he's unable to get to the other gun-his father's-which he knows will tie him to the crime, despite his innocence. His flight path takes him first to Houston, where he unsuccessfully tries to hook up with gorgeous former schoolmate Taylor Figueroa; the crafty beauty, promised a media job by the evil Lally, who's also duped Vernon's mom, follows him to Mexico and efficiently betrays him. Most of the plotting feels like an excuse for Vernon's endless, sharply snide riffs on his small town and the unique excesses of America that helped spawn the killings. Unfortunately, Vernon's voice grows tiresome, his excesses make him rather unlikable and the over-the-top, gross-out humor is hit-or-miss. Pierre's wild energy offers entertaining satire as well as cringe-provoking scenes, and though he can write with incisive wit, this is a bumpy ride.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Man Booker Prize
  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; First Edition edition (October 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841954608
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841954608
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,599,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The strength of DBC Pierre's award-winning novel is in the voice of its narrator, Vernon Gregory Little, a fifteen year old oddball kid from Texas whose best friend Jesus went on a shooting rampage at school. Because Jesus killed himself at the scene, there's no one to take legal and emotional blame for the tragedy, so the police haul Vernon into the station for questioning. Through a series of mistakes and an adolescent distrust of authority, Vernon looks more and more guilty despite not being at the scene until after the massacre. Dogged by a slimy television repairman turned reporter, ignored by a mother who wants a new refrigerator more than a freed son, and supported by his mother's best friend whose answer to every tragedy is a trip to the Bar-B-Chew Barn, Vernon is left to his own, not-so-sophisticated devices.
This novel is funny in a grating way: the humor has a forced edge to it that sometimes works but often doesn't. Malapropisms abound and quickly get tiring, mostly because the narrator is not as ignorant as the garbled phrases suggest. The language is profane and sometimes clumsy, and Vernon's hormonally-charged psyche comes out in weak, meaningless descriptions, such as piano notes "tinkling in the background, soft as ovaries hitting oatmeal." With often biting satire, Pierre turns his eye to many facets of American society: the media, the judicial system, obsession with food, small town life, religion, psychiatry, families, adolescent angst. The scenes are over the top, which is perfect for satire, but Pierre never tackles the issues with any depth or fresh insight. Instead, this novel reads as a dark comic strip punctuated by profanity. It is ultimately more ambitious than it is successful. Even its thematic development of religious imagery is clumsy.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Vernon God Little," Mr. Pierre's first novel, won the 2003 Man Booker Prize, which is the most prestigious award for fiction in the UK. The novel is an example of satire at its best, biting, witty and at times, just plain funny. The humor, however, is very dark. Mr. Pierre's writing clearly demonstrates his contempt for the media, the US criminal justice system, capital punishment, and our contemporary culture's pandemic materialism. He takes on the seamier aspects of life in America, or more specifically, in a small town in central Texas, Martirio by name. Pierre's scathing indictment of the townspeople - their acquisitiveness; greed; mean-spirited gossip; fast food obsessions juxtaposed with their zeal for the latest fad diet; their dependence on television; and their pandering to mass media, an ever present post-tragedy intrusion into their daily lives - certainly paints a bleak picture of a community whose citizens come off poorly under duress.

At the center of the turmoil is 15-year-old Vernon Little, a 21st Century Holden Caulfield who is desperately trying to come of age, while the people of his town are determined to give him the death penalty. Vernon narrates the story in highly idiomatic but expressive English, chock-full of malaprops. He is under arrest and charged as the accomplice in a brutal school shooting where 16 students were murdered. He has become the town's "skate goat" in the aftermath of a Colombine-style massacre committed by his best friend, "Meskin" (Mexican) Jesus Navarro. Vernon ponders his friend's death, "He keeps secrets from me, like he never did before. He got weird." Vernon, who is a flawed teen, obsessed with his bowels but certainly innocent of any crime, describes himself: "....
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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Vernon God Little is not a terrible novel; it tells an intermittently humorous story, written in the currently fashionable rambling style of first-person confession. It's just not a story that bears any resemblance to life in the US.
Sadly, it is painfully obvious that the novelist substituted watching imported US television for actual research. Instead of the Booker, the novel should win the Nebula, for bears as much resemblance to reality as does I, Robot. DBC Pierre - or rather, Peter Finley - can't even get the rhythm of the speech right, making supposedly redneck Vernon sound like a refugee from Manchester, UK.
For a satire to work, it must be grounded in the subject which it satirizes. Vernon God Little misses by a mile. And since the book is not strenuous to read - as long as you're familiar with four-letter Anglo-Saxon expletives, you'll get through the prose no time - it is the perfect comfort food for those who like to jump on media bandwagons in the hopes of puffing up their own pseudo-intellectual consequence, but who might find, oh say, Oryx and Crake or Middlesex a little daunting.
Above all, Vernon God Little is America for those living on distant shores so they can stop feeling vaguely anxious because their ancestors forgot to emigrate, or worse, emigrated to the wrong New World. Even sadder, for they should know better, the book confirms the worst stereotypes of "flyover country" for those smugly superior in the Greater Tri-State area or West Coast, for whom Texas is as exotic and unknown as Uganda.
There are far better recent books about teenage alienation, oblivious parents and feeble-minded authority figures - some even written by real American teenagers.
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